This time of year I find myself reflecting back on my life, both growing up and with my own children. My hard-working parents always made certain we had a nice Christmas, some years better than others based on how my Dad’s business was going. There were not many years that were disappointing as I recall. I remember one year, when we were young and still believers, although a few of us were beginning to question the Santa Claus mystique. We were all down in the TV Room watching Rudolph on TV, being allowed to stay up a little late “as long as we behaved ourselves.” That was always a bit of a challenge since there were six of us. I was the only girl in a sea of brothers. Two or three of the brothers were always stretched out on the floor, and it was next to impossible for them to keep their hands to themselves. Someone was always poking the other one.
On this particular night, Mom was present in the room holding the youngest, Eric, when all of a sudden we heard this loud clatter from upstairs. Scared, we all looked to my mom, who with her straight face: “You better go see what it is!” That should have been a clear sign that something fishy was up. I mean, what mother would send her young children into the face of danger. But off we scampered with the younger boys leading the charge. As we headed toward the attic, we ran into a stairwell of peanuts (in the shell) and a little candy as well. My dad’s office was in the attic then, and as all of us were running up the stairs, he met us at the landing and put on his best surprise face, laughing as we were scrambling to get handfuls of the treats, while trying to avoid stepping on everything. We asked where this came from. In perfect dramatic storytelling, he told us that he was in his office when all of a sudden he heard a THUD on the roof and a bunch of “hoof” sounds. By the time he reached the hallway, all he saw (so he claimed) was a big black boot, and “a touch of a red leg” escaping out the window, since there was no fireplace in the attic. Of course, we all sat there in awe, to think Santa was so close. While I was wanting to believe it to be real, I also looked with great suspicion at my father. He never confessed despite my tireless effort to get him to admit that he did it.
That ability to pull off a surprise at Christmas was passed down to me, and when my kids were about 6, 4, and 18 mos., I pulled a bit of a prank. In an effort to get them to bed on Christmas Eve, I rang some sleigh bells outside near their bedrooms. When I returned, Brian and Aidan were quite wired up about what they had heard. With my dad’s best face, I convinced them that it must have been Santa’s elves coming by to see if they were in bed and asleep so they could give Santa the “go ahead” to come into the house. Once they heard that, they flew into their beds, and I never heard another peep out of them. Once asleep, I cut a large boot print out of cardboard, found some baking soda, and mixed it with some evergreen leaves for scent. In a very painstaking process, I made about 30 footprints, both right and left, from the fireplace back to their bedrooms, and right up next to their beds. Fortunately, we lived in a one story, so this was do-able.
Never a sleeper on Christmas Eve, I was up early waiting for the pitter-patter of little feet, and the first reactions. It was Aidan that woke first as I recall, and you could hear him jump out of his bed and go to his older brother’s bed. He began to shake him, “Bw-ian, get up! Look at our f’oor. I think Santa Cw-aus was in our room.” That immediately caught Brian’s attention, and with some hesitation, they came rushing into the hallway where I was waiting for them. As a parent, I finally saw on the faces of my children that sense of wonder and excitement my dad had seen on his children many years before.
While I was contemplating today’s blog, Liz Novak wandered into my office. I shared with her that I have been in this mode of thinking and reminding myself about all that I am grateful for. She gave me a good line, “Adopt an attitude of gratitude.” So when I think back to my childhood there are many, many gratitude-filled moments. Not that we didn’t have our challenges, we did, but we always seem to be okay.
The difficulty this time of year is watching the news. We are a world at war. We are a country with serious issues revolving around weather disasters, unrest in our capital, a struggling economy, and poverty and violence all around us. A day does not go by when I am either driving to work, or passing someone on the street, or in the grocery store, that I stop, pause, and say “thank you” to the universe for the life I was given, and the life I have each day.
One of my daily exercises is to remind myself each day for something I am grateful for. No, I am not keeping a daily journal that would be one more thing to do. But I am taking a few moments out of my day to do some inner reflection and am benefiting from the conversations with myself. I am grateful for the three incredible young adults in my life — all are happy and healthy, and on their own career paths. I am grateful for my mom and brothers that love me each day. I am grateful for a wealth of friends that enrich my life in so many ways, and are always there for me. I am grateful for my incredible job as your Executive Director, and the opportunity to work with such dedicated staff and volunteers. I am grateful for my presidents, Diane Cecero, MCBA, and Audrey Peartree, FMCB, for the hard work they put in each day. I am grateful to my gym that gives me a place to go at the start or the end of my day, and is my partner in good health. I am grateful for my wonderful little house that is the place I go for solace and renewal.
I am so grateful that I can go out this holiday season and offer some gifts to the people in my life that I love and cherish. But I know not everyone is as fortunate as I am. Can I get caught up in the “wants” — I could, but I really try not to. Instead, I am trying to take my own personal gratitude inventory, and on the days that I get down on myself, or feel like the world is coming down on me, I recall my gratitude inventory, and that puts my life in perspective.
What about you? What are you grateful for? Don’t let the craziness of this holiday season steal you of some quiet moments to reflect on your own gratitude inventory.
Wishing you and your family a very happy holiday season, and most of all, a Happy and Healthy New Year!
Thanks for checking in,